Omega Fields

  • Yellow Flies (or And I Thought The Humidity Was Bad!)

    Written By Julia Dake

    I start this tale by saying that I am new to riding in the South. I have ridden many miles in the Sierra, the redwoods and along the coast of California. But I have returned to the land of my girlhood recently and found the riding to be very different. The sandy wide trails, the ancient oaks covered in Spanish moss and the very flatness of the land are all new to me. One of my first trail rides in the south began with the guide telling me “If you come across an alligator on the trail, don’t ride over it”. I thought to myself; You have to tell people this?! Add in the humidity and the afternoon thunderstorms and it couldn’t be any different from the trails I’ve ridden in the West.

    The weekend is going to be warm. For some reason, I think that North Carolina is going to be cooler after all it is NORTH Carolina. It might be a nice treat to get out of the city and have some quiet time. Mom and I head to the barn. Yes my 70 year old, very arthritic mom is going with me. I hook up the rig. Mom offers to help but retracts when I give her 'the look'. I bathe my gelding, Dakota. I get him and his food loaded and off we go. The truck is running great, Dakota is quiet, Dru (my dog) is asleep and mom is happily reading the road signs. I have directions from the internet. It’s a pretty straightforward trip, mostly freeway until we get to the campground turn off.

    Everything is going smoothly but not for long. An accident closes I-95 to one lane. We lose twenty to thirty minutes but that’s okay because I have directions from the internet. And it’s a pretty straightforward trip.

    Past the accident, slowly, and we are on our way once again. We haul down the freeway, me, mom, my dog and the horse. The campground is near the tiny teeny tiny town of Everwild (the name has been changed to protect everyone) and I have mistakenly asked the amazing internet for directions to the town and not the campground. Unfortunately, I don’t know this…yet.

    Mom, who has been reading every sign for the last 100 miles on the road STOPS....and I sail at 60 miles per hour past the turn. In truth she did say I needed to slow down. We turn around three miles later because the rig is 35 ft long and, even with a gooseneck trailer, I prefer a football field when I have to turn around. We get back to the original turn and turn the wrong way.

    Quickly, we are in the little town with no place to turn around. We roll through the ‘main’ street and I notice that pretty much everyone owns a pit bull. Dru is slunk down in the seat. He’s met pit bulls before and these look like they mean business. At least I don’t hear the theme from ‘Deliverance’ strumming in the background. Mom keeps telling me that we are going the wrong way. How does she know?

    Finally in the spirit of women, I call the camp ground. The lady is very helpful but in giving directions feels it is necessary to give the entire history of the inhabitants of Everwild. I mutter ‘huh huh’ while trying to keep the directions straight.

    We get turned around, again. And carefully following the directions from the owner of the campground, we find the place at last. It’s lovely. Quiet. The stalls are small but okay. I get everything settled but we are missing a lot of needed items in the rig and mom doesn’t have a clue where anything is. The rig is too small for anyone other than me and one other person who is agile and can move quickly. That lets mom out. Let’s add the dog to the mix. Getting a good picture?

    It’s HOT and HUMID. I have to run the A/C the entire night. It sounds like the Starship Enterprise is landing on the roof of the living quarters. Mom, under a blanket and a minus 40 degree sleeping bag, is a frozen Popsicle in the morning. I suppose it was a blessing that the dog felt the need to sleep with her. Bless him.

    In the morning (six a.m. because there is no point trying to sleep with the Enterprise hovering just over head) I feed and water the horse. Mom makes coffee. I pull out the awning and set up the TV so she can watch while I am riding.

    I get my gelding ready. I am going to ride early because of the heat and humidity. Unbeknownst to me there is another thing I haven't considered. Bugs.

    A couple of nice men (one deaf and the other in his 80s; "I got a lot of health problems you know") ask me to ride with them. Why not? I've never been here and it might be safer. After a long lecture about something called a 'yellow fly' we start down the trail toward the forest. Being from California the lecture means nothing to me but being raised politely I listen and nod. I’ve hauled a long way and not just to sit in camp!

    We ride about a mile on an asphalt road. I don’t like it because it’s hard on the horses’ feet but hey...the forest is up just ahead. I can almost feel the coolness against my skin. We ride into the beautiful, verdant forest (I am sighing softly right about now) and get swarmed, SWARMED, by yellow flies. Biting and buzzing down my shirt, in my hair, my mouth, my ears and they bite leaving quarter sized welts when they do! They bite my horse. They buzz his ears. He is getting crazy, stomping and bucking. Dakota rarely misbehaves but this is something else. NOW the lecture about ‘yallah flies’ means something.

    One of the gentlemen I am riding with comes up next to me and hands me a slender tree branch. “Use this to brush them yallah flies off yah horse". I have now discovered an essential piece of gear while riding the Carolinas; a small branch with the leaves on the end. Dakota found some relief as I rode along brushing his ears and face and all other reachable parts of his body. Pleasure trail riding. Yeah right.

    Finally, I give up. Forty minutes into the ride I turn around. Anyone who knows me knows that is NOT something I do. The Granite Stair Case at Echo Summit didn't cause me to turn around....but bugs...biting stinging bugs...that’s it. I tell the gentlemen I am riding with that I am returning to camp. They also turned around. I’m not the only one who finds these flies too much.

    I ride back into camp and start stripping the gear of my gelding. No yellow flies so he stands quietly. My mom comes out of the rig. I can hear the question before she speaks.

    “We’re outta here.” I don’t hike. I don’t swim. I don’t catch sun in a lounge chair. I ride and if I can’t ride I’m leaving. It sounds petulant but it’s one of the little truths about me that I won’t hide.

    I pack the camp up in forty minutes. That has to be a record. Mom is in the truck with the dog, the horse is loaded and I haul on down the road nearly turning right when I should have turned left but mom-mom (I don’t own a Tom-Tom) caught that one before we had to hunt for a church parking lot to turn around in and we are on the road. Interstate 95 south toward Charleston. The weather is cool. In the south, in the summer that is usually a bad sign.

    We roll down the freeway. Mom is quiet and I am happily following a motorhome that is going my perfect speed. I get lulled into a kind of hypnosis, following the sway of the coach in front of me. I’m humming and thinking about yellow flies, the cost of diesel and going to work on Monday when my mom quietly mentions, “This is our exit right here.”

    Now when my mom says “right here” she means right here. It’s a good thing that gelding of mine stands up in the trailer with his feet spread because the exit to I-26 came up quickly. I nearly missed it and would be in Florida by now still following the motorhome. But I make the turn. I don’t know what possessed me not to go on to the next exit but when my mom said ‘right here’; I turn.

    I hear my mother gasping as I make the turn and head south toward Charleston. Tires squeal. I make a mental note to have the brakes checked on the rig. At least they aren’t smoking. This time.

    I relax my grip on the steering wheel. What more can happen? Through my windshield, ahead in the distance is the blackest, meanest thunderstorm on the planet straddling the freeway. Will this fun filled weekend never end?!

    It sits over the interstate; a monster waiting and like a moth to the flame I haul myself, my mother, my dog and a 35 foot aluminum lightening rod toward it. The storm is right over head. The lightening strikes and crashes at the same instant. I am IN a lightening storm. Mom is trying to comfort the dog. He is shivering and his teeth are chattering. Mom is, with the same words, comforting me. I've slowed to twenty mph with my flashers on. I’m thinking about pulling over even though I know better when twenty feet off the right front of my truck, lightening strikes a pine tree and it explodes. Dru now wants in my lap! I want in my mom’s lap!!!! Dakota is hopping around in the trailer. The air is hot and every hair in the rig is on end. Mom later tells me I was talking a mile a minute and white as a sheet. She also mentions that I might want to unclench my jaw.

    We make it to the barn. I unload. Unhook. Take care of Dakota. We drive home. The sun is shining. The next day is Sunday. I watch NASCAR and paint cabinets in the kitchen for my mother. I don't complain. I'm just happy there are no yellow flies at my mother’s house.

    Yippee Ti Yo!


    Written By Walt Friedrich

    It is a condition – or more precisely, an infection – in the hoof. It is not a disease. Its elimination has been the goal of massive efforts to develop the ultimate product, as witness the vast variety of thrush-busting products on tack shop shelves. All of them do sell, and each of them probably does reduce and control the infection in some hooves – but there are a couple problems: one is that a given product may clear things up for some horses, but seems ineffective for others. And secondly, many of those hooves whose thrush does get controlled end up with a re-infection a couple months later.  Right up front, the problem is not a simple one.

    Just what is this elusive infection, anyway?

    Well, that’s part of the problem. The term “thrush” gets hung on just about every hoof ache or pain that comes along, but it is not necessarily just one type of microbe that’s responsible. There are enough bad guys to fill a Post Office bulletin board, including yeasts, bacteria, and fungi! The most common of the “usual suspects” is a yeast named Candida albicans, a nasty little creature, and very difficult to eliminate. In addition to albicans, there are a number of other species within the genus Candida that are known to cause human and equine infections. And to add some complication, a bacterium called fusobacterium necrophorum is also commonly held responsible for many “thrush” infections, PLUS numerous fungi in the line-up as well. The invading army that causes “thrush” can have many mercenaries, and it is asking a great deal of any one treatment to go out there and kill ‘em all.

    As if that’s not complex enough, yeasts and fungi exist in both “live” and spore form. Consider the spore to be an “egg”, containing the microbe, which “hatches” when environmental conditions are favorable. Killing an army of microscopic fungi may be doable, but the spores they leave behind are virtually bullet-proof; they patiently wait for those favorable conditions to return, at which time they “hatch” and re-form a brand-new army!

    Tackling the problem…then back to the drawing board

    So here are we, one day, observing our horse three-legged lame, perhaps, with a gooey, stinky mess exuding from a frog. “Aha,” we think, “this is thrush and I’m gonna get rid of it.” Of course, we don’t know what organism or organisms are responsible, so we ask the guy in the tack shop for the best of the thrush killers, we buy it, then take it home and have at it. Sure enough, after a few applications, things appear to getting better, the frog is healing, the goo and the smell are gone, and our horse is happy – until a few weeks later, when we see a rerun of the problem developing. The spores have hatched and have started to party again, plus some new neighbors from the stall floor have joined them, and we’re ready to return to the tack shop to look for a newer and better anti-thrush miracle cure.

    More about these nasty little critters

    One of the basics we know is that we can be dealing with two entirely different entities, here – aerobes and anaerobes. Aerobes live and breathe even as do you and I, which means they need air to survive, which makes them relatively accessible to our attacks. That opens the field to most of the on-the-shelf products that we wipe on or spray on. These are the easiest to apply, and when they work, our job is easier.

    The anaerobes are quite another story. They cannot live in air, consequently, when without a host, they exist in spore form, sort-of in a state of suspended animation. But those spores, along with their aerobic cousins, cover the stall floor and walls, even the very dirt we walk on, even our own shoes! It takes two things for an infection to hit a hoof: the hoof needs to be standing amid the microbes (that’s a “gimme” – if he’s in the stall, he’s standing amid them, and standing anywhere in mud or feces, it’s like he’s put out the welcome mat for infection), and the hoof needs to have some “outside doors” open – any tiny lesion on the bottom of a foot will do. Both microbes and spores get jammed into the lesion, where they get sealed in when the horse stands or walks in mud. The living microbes are already at work, and when the spores realize that there’s no air, it’s warm, it’s moist, they burst forth and join the party.

    How to fight back

    Now we start to see the complexity of fighting “thrush”. Topical treatments work on aerobes because we can get at them. But not so for the anaerobes. Living in an airless environment means they are buried deep in the tissues, hard for us to reach. A new approach is called for; soaking those feet in the appropriate microbe-killer long enough for the medication to soak in and do its job. A 30-minute soak in apple cider vinegar or dilute chlorine dioxide (Oxine or White Lightning, for example) will do the job on the microbes, but not their spores. For that, soaking in a product designed to kill spores is needed. There are several on the market, but the most effective may be CleanTrax, available on-line – it will kill aerobes, anaerobes, and spores.

    So when you can see deterioration of the frog, and/or smell a real stink on those hooves, the “enemy” is obviously present and you can deal with it. But the real trick in dealing with it is to catch it early, before much damage has been done, and for that, some preventive measures are called for. When thoroughly cleaned, the entire bottom of the hoof is in clear view – difficult for undesirable microbes to hide. Consider forming the habit of thorough picking and wire-brushing the hoof bottom clean, a quick scrub with Dawn Detergent, every day, then spraying the entire surface with a microbe-killer; keep the foot off-ground for fifteen or twenty seconds to allow some penetration of the spray. Two very useful sprays are colloidal silver (silver ions are believed to destroy key enzyme systems in the cell membranes of these pathogens), and Usnea (a symbiosis [one organism living on another] of a fungus and an alga, used for its antibiotic and antifungal properties). Both are available on-line: consider the colloidal silver brand, “Silvetrasol”, about $20 for a spray bottle, and Usnea Tincture, about $10 for four oz., available from Essential Wholesale & Labs, among others. Mix Usnea 50-50 with water and spray daily, but Silvestrasol once a week.

    Preventive medicine

    Spraying is a quick and easy preventive procedure – but take it a step further and disinfect any crevices you see. For example, a healthy hoof has no crevices or clefts (the commissures don’t count), but a potential problem will show up as a cleft developing in the center of the heel of the frog. It will usually be just a slit, but if you can insert the metal tip of your hoof pick into it to any depth at all, it’s a problem in development. Left untreated, that cleft will develop into a crevice that’s as deep as your pick’s tip is long – or deeper. That means trouble is coming, and you should take countermeasures right away. Such clefts are well-protected hidey-holes for thrush-causing microbes to start their damaging work. The trick is to deposit some microbe-killer directly into the bottom of that cleft, and to do that you need a special, inexpensive, syringe (no needle). Your vet can probably provide you with one; it has a long, flexible tip that allows you to get it into tight quarters. An alternative is to buy the product, “ToMorrow”, from your local Agway, Tractor Supply, or equivalent. ToMorrow contains medication useful in treating mastitis in cow udders, hence its long, flexible tip. You can use it to deposit a pea-sized glob of medication at the very bottom of a frog cleft. You can use the mastitis treatment cream itself in frog clefts, but a better alternative is to empty the syringe, and then refill it with a 50-50 mixture of Triple Antibiotic Cream and Clotrimazole, both available on your druggist’s shelves. TA Cream is effective in combating Athlete’s Foot – a fungus infection – and Clotrimazole is a powerful treatment, especially useful in combating thrush. Added bonus is the cost for one ToMorrow syringe is only about two bucks.

    The outlook is positive

    And so, with all this, we’ve not yet crossed home plate – but we’re on third, waiting for the base hit that lets us score. We have a pretty good idea what causes the thrush condition. We have not yet found the silver bullet – but we’re getting closer. The thrush condition in horses is actually quite similar to the human version, and when we are able to nail it completely in humans, we should have it licked in horses, too. Meantime, we do have means to control it and make our equine partners more comfortable while we’re at it. It’s so insidious that it can slide in under the radar and our problem becomes repair rather than prevention; but to prevent takes vigilance and some effort on our part. So for our horses’ sake, keep the stalls clean, keep the floors cleared of feces, keep them clear of mud, keep that pick and wire brush close at hand and use them daily. Catch it early!

  • Ivory Pal Born to Fly Higher Book Prizes In New Facebook Contest

    In celebration of Omega Fields Omega Horseshine Ambassador’s new book – Ivory Pal Born to Fly Higher by author Cindy McCauley, Omega Fields held a new Facebook contest on October 9 and two winners were announced on October 12. Congrats to the two winners, Millie Lake and Jess Bowers. Each winner recieved a signed copy of the new book along with a one month supply of Omega Horseshine. It was super easy to participate, all Facebook fans had to do was  like the post and share for a chance to win. For an additional chance to win, Facebook fans commented underneath the post describing how their horse or a horse in their life has impacted them in a positive way or taught them invaluable lessons.

  • The Embroidery Horse-A True Fairy Tale

    Written By Julia Dake

    Janice waited nearly sixty years for her horse. A horse was impractical to her practical parents. Riding lessons were something for a wealthy girl. Food for a horse? Out of the question. It didn’t matter that Janice begged at every Christmas or birthday for a ‘pinto paint pony’ with a ribbon in her tail, the pony never appeared. Her parents prayed Janice would ‘grow out of it’. She didn’t grow out of it but she learned to keep her dream to herself.Janice went to school, played, grew up, married and had children. She lived the life most live, soccer and play dates, wedding and funerals, movies and vacations, sadness and fear, happiness and love. She lived the normal life, the expected life and kept her dream to herself.

    However, on a wall in her bedroom, in a small frame is an embroidery image of a black and white and brown horse on a little farm. Janice created the embroidery, lovingly stitching the image of the pony of her dreams with her tiny nine year old hands. She waited, no longer speaking her dream but keeping the image in the frame on the wall.

    During the course of Janice’s normal life, she and her husband bought a house in ‘the country’. It was as close as she thought she would get to the life she lived amidst the threads in the frame. As Janice drove to her new home, her heart thumped, hard. One side of the road is crowded with new houses. Sidewalks and two car garages abound. On the other side of the road to her new home is the world of dreams. Horses scattered across velvet pastures, framed by beautiful white fences. All colors and sizes grazed and played.

    Later in the dark quiet, Janice looked at her embroidery, trying to match the black and brown pony to one standing in the pasture. The

    arge brown one, the grey or chestnut in the far pasture but none matched. None made the little thread pony come to lifeNot knowing what she would do when she found the horse but nearing sixty, she knew time to bring the embroidery horse to life was slipping away. Her health was changing and not for the better. Her husband, Tommy, who knew the tiny horse in the frame, was also suffering the changes in life. He wanted his wife to find the ‘pinto paint pony’. He wanted her to find that joy from her childhood, extraordinary and perfect.

    The pressure, the desire to touch the little horse, to feel it breathe under her hand and move down the trail was becoming intense. Janice could feel the warm softness of its breath in her dreams. She heard the quiet nicker and knew the embroidery horse wanted to come to life soon.

    Janice drove by the pastures every day, going to and from work, shopping, living her day. She always slowed by the fence looking, carefully, hopefully. One day as she drove home, she spotted a new horse, a black and brown and white horse grazing in the pasture. Her heart pounded in her chest. The colors of the horse sang to Janice. Without hesitation, she pointed her car toward the farm house.

    The farm owner greeted her and listened while Janice talked, asking the question. ‘Is the black and brown and white horse for sale?’ No. His wife’s new mare is not for sale.

    That night Janice stared at the framed pony. It danced and trotted inside the tiny fence, tossing the delicate head and calling softly. A door had been opened, the gate swung wide. It was time, if there ever would be a time. If it wasn’t the wife’s mare then there was another out in the pasture that would free the thread bound pony.

    She looked in earnest at all the horses in the pastures. Each horse was considered but Janice always came back to the black and brown and white mare. She stopped occasionally to visit the farm owner and his wife, hoping the spotted mare was for sale. The answer was always the same.

    A year slipped away. Another Christmas, another birthday came and went. The pinto paint pony didn’t appear. No ribbon in the tail. No soft nicker. Janice began to lose hope. The old dream darkened, quieted. She still slowed along the fence, watching the horses graze but theembroidery horse stopped prancing inside her little fence.

    Life takes strange turns. Just when you think the dream is dead; you find it is only asleep. Out of reach becomes a finger-tip stretch away. And so Janice stopped at the farm one more time. The black and brown and white mare trotted in the round pen, turning and spinning, tossing her mane and calling loudly. The farm owner stood watching her. Janice quieted her heart, but hope kept whispering in her ears.

    She asked the question. Her ears buzzed. Yes. The mare was for sale.

    Today Janice grooms and bathes, feeling the mare breathe under her hand hoping she is taking good care of the embroidery horse. She takes riding and horsemanship lessons. She reads and questions, absorbing all she can. When she feels the sweet breath of the pinto paint on her cheek or relaxes into the rhythm as she rides down the trail, Janice makes up for the nearly sixty years of waiting.

    No more keeping the dream to herself; Janice shares it with all. Friends and family visit the little mare. The barn is the first place she brings them when they arrive. The mostly non-horse people marvel at Janice’s independence, at her new found confidence. They comment that she is a different person.

    Everyone admits they thought she’d grown out of it. She hadn’t. She just kept it to herself until the embroidery horse came to life and found life outside the little thread fence.

    The End

  • Keaton and Ramsey, Sumo Wrestlers at Play!

    Written By Leigh Pyron

    A few years back I received a call from a woman who was having some behavior problems with her year and a half old Yellow Lab named Keaton. Keaton had always been very mouthy as a puppy, but now as an adolescent he had started practicing another bad habit of nipping people and their clothing whenever he would greet them. In addition, he had started acting aggressively on the leash, barking, lunging and growling at other dogs.
    When I first arrived at Keaton’s house, I could already hear him barking before I reached the front door. As I approached the door, I could see through the window Keaton’s owner holding him by the collar as he leaped up and down, barking and lunging toward the door. As I got closer I could barely hear the owner in the background saying, “it’s ok, you can come in.” Being rather fond of my appendages and the clothes I was wearing, I instructed the owner to toss a few treats on floor for Keaton to find as I entered the house.   When I entered, I told her to toss a few more treats away from us as we walked toward the kitchen island where we sat down on a couple of high stools next to it. Keaton was trying his best to get our attention, while we were working hard at ignoring him. I watched him out of the corner of my eye nip at the tail end of my vest and at my treat bag. He did this a few times, but since I continued to ignore him he finally walked away and lay down on his dog bed.
    After interviewing the owner and getting bit more information on Keaton’s history, I asked her if Keaton had any familiar dog friends that he seemed to get along with. She said she did go on regular hikes with another woman who had a Yellow Lab, as well, named Ramsey who was close to Keaton’s age, and that they had been hiking and playing together for almost a year now. Knowing I could obtain an incredible amount of information watching Keaton interact with not only the owner’s friend, but her dog as well, I suggested she contact her friend and arrange a time for the three of us to meet with the two dogs.
    Unexpectedly, a few days prior to meeting with my client and her friend, I happened to run into Keaton and his owner at a large open space area where I took my morning group of 6 dogs. My dogs were already off leash when Keaton and his owner arrived. Seconds after the owner unleashed Keaton, he came bounding into the group invasively greeting each one of my dogs. As I stood by observing, ready to intervene if necessary, Keaton came upon a little, white Poodle mix named Mini. The two of them immediately started cueing each other to play. They took turns greeting each other with polite play-bows, followed by running around in circles and taking turns chasing each other. Keaton was surprisingly quite gentle with Mini. Compensating for the size difference, he would drop to the ground in order for Mini to interact with him. They would also take quick breaks or pauses on occasion and then start right back up again with another gracious play bow as if to say “let the games begin!” and off they would go chasing after one another. I was thrilled to see Keaton interact so well with Mini, and from what I observed, it seemed to be very healthy play.
    A few days later, I arrived at the Open Space trail a little early to meet my client and her friend. Her friend had arrived shortly after me with her Lab, Ramsey. As she drove up, I could see and hear Ramsey barking and jumping in the back of her SUV. He was jumping with such force that the vehicle was actually still in motion even after she parked the car. As the owner got out of the car, she waved to me and hollered a quick “hello” which was barely audible over Ramsey’s barking. I waved back at her with a concerned smile and wide-open eyes knowing she was going to release the beast at any moment, and he would most likely head right for me. I watched her as, without hesitation, she opened the back hatch to her SUV and this 90lb dog leaped out of the back of her car and headed directly toward me. Needless to say, he almost knocked me over once he closed the distance between us, with the owner in tow yelling, “Ramsey, get down, get down!” After many apologies, we greeted and exchanged a handshake. I asked her if Ramsey had always behaved this way when she took him for a ride in the car. She said, “oh no, he knows he’s going to see Keaton today, that’s why he’s so excited.” Not a minute later, my client pulled up with Keaton barking and jumping in the back of her car as well.
    Trying to be fast on my feet, I quickly rushed over to her car hoping to get there before she let Keaton out. If I could get at least one of them into a calm state we might be able to walk to the trailhead without so much drama. I got no further than a few feet closer to her car when the back hatch of the car mysteriously opened on it’s own and Keaton, already airborne, flew out of the car like a cartoon character wearing a Superman cape! There was no question in my mind where he was heading… In seconds Keaton body-slammed into Ramsey and the two of them went at it like two Sumo wrestlers. I immediately took off running after them directing the owners to try and pull them apart and put them on a leash. I instructed the owners to quickly start walking and to keep a distance between the dogs by keeping their dogs on the extreme opposite sides of each other. I wanted to try and get the dogs to relax and calm down before we let them go off-leash. Once they were both calm, sniffing about and taking care of business, I told the owners to quietly and slowly unclip their leashes and let them go.
    Within in seconds the two dogs bolted ahead of us, front legs plowing into the dirt like bulldozers as they crossed the gap between them in order to make contact. Keaton and Ramsey were already at the peak of their arousal and they hadn’t even engaged yet! Both dogs were locked in direct eye contact, tails high and erect, ears forward and hackle’s up from head to tail, mouths wide open, bearing their glistening white, youthful teeth. It all happened as fast as lightening. They both collided like freight trains, lunging and grabbing for each other’s necks, bound and determined to pin the other to the ground first. I stood there, in those few seconds, watching this violent dance between these two dogs.  I was shocked as I looked over at the two owners who stood by calmly smiling while they watched their dogs at what they thought was all fun and play. All I could think was that these two dogs had been practicing and perfecting this kind of “play” for almost a year now! Keaton and Ramsey’s “play” was no less than that of two fighting Pit Bulls. The only thing missing was a crowd of bystanders cheering them on!
    Within seconds, I hollered out to the women to immediately grab their respective dog and put him on a leash. We all dashed towards the dogs and the owners struggled to grab ahold of their dog. Both dogs continued to lung and snap at each other even after they were restrained on the leash. I quickly got out some treats and handed them to the owners, instructing them to pass the treat by their dog’s nose and then immediately toss several treats on the ground in the opposite direction of the other dog. All I can say is Thank Goodness they were Labs! Where Labs are concerned, food is the cure-all-end-all for diminishing drama and arousal. Once the dogs got a whiff of the treats the game quickly changed to a hunting expedition.
    Unfortunately, this type of “play” between dogs happens all the time. The most common place to find it is at your local dog park. Many people assume if their dogs are interacting and engaging with one another and they don’t draw blood, they are playing.  When aggressive and inappropriate play is practiced over and over again on a regular basis, it can further enhance or create various other bad behaviors, such as Keaton’s nipping at people and being aggressive on leash.
    Here are some things to look for in your dog and other dogs that will help you define what is healthy play and what is unsafe, more risky play.
    Healthy Play
    1.      Self Interruption – dogs take occasional breaks from playing, and then after a few seconds resume play again
    2.      Shared physical space – there is a comfortable amount of space between the two dogs at play
    3.      Ability to compensate or modify for size or strength differences – a large breed plays more gently with a small breed, sometimes laying on the ground so the small dog can engage better
    4.      Mirrored or tandem movement during interruption or during play – one of them stops to potty or sniff something, the other one follows and does the same
    5.      Accepted or reversible role – take turns with offensive and defensive roles, switching position of being on the top and on bottom at play
    Slightly Risky Play
    1.      Rise in intensity of arousal – dogs become more aroused the longer they play
    2.      Hackles are up – hair stands up on back of neck, body and or hind end.
    a.       Hackles that are raised from shoulders down to rump often denote fear or conflict in the dog
    b.      Hackles that are razor-thin between shoulder blades, often denote high arousal in the dog
    c.       Hackles that are widely spread in any area usually denotes conflict in the dog
    3.      Snarling and/or barking with teeth exposed
    4.      No self interruption – no interment breaks during play
    5.      Hard, physical contact – pushing and shoving each other
    Slightly More Risky Play
    1.      Direct eye contact – dogs stare directly into other dogs eyes as opposed to intermit glancing and looking away
    2.      Frontal and aligned body positioning – as opposed to uneven lines in body when they first meet or reengage
    3.      Faster interactions – respond without hesitation or pauses to every move
    4.      Recall with delayed response – if try to call dog to come, it doesn’t respond right away
    Most Risky Play
    1.      Relentless, uninterrupted engagement – non-stop combative response to each movement
    2.      Reorientation to the other dog’s neck or throat – constantly trying to orient head in a position that allows for the dog to grab at the throat or neck area of the other dog
    3.      Grab or bite with headshake – once dog engages teeth in other dog he starts to shake his opponent back and forth
    4.      Full mouth biting - dog intentionally tries to directly bite other dog
    5.      Ears are forward in position, intense chasing with open mouth, making physical contact at impact
    6.      More than one dog chasing another dog – ganging up on weakest link
    7.      Targeting another dog – amongst several dogs at play, one dog keeps an eye on one other dog and continually tries to get at the dog to make contact with it. Targeting dog will make direct eye contact with frontal body alignment, tail up and ears forward. Very difficult to interrupt or stop dog that is targeting another dog.
    Take the time to learn your dog’s body language and determine whether your dog is engaging in healthy play or risky play. Visit your local dog park one day without your dog and just sit and observe the dogs at play. See if you can assess into which group of play they would fall. Play is very important in a dog’s life whether it’s with humans or dogs just make sure it’s always safe play!
    There is an excellent YouTube video by Zoom Room, which shows great examples of dog body language.

  • Chase, the Snake Guru

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    One day in August I arrived home to find a baby snake on the basement floor in front of my dog Chase’s kennel. Any snake sets off a visceral reaction that usually makes me scream and jump out of my shoes. Somehow, a snake is always a surprise. It must be a survival instinct for my heart rate to go up and the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention. But this guy was tiny, not much bigger around than a pen or pencil, and probably less than a foot long. He had rust red and gray and black markings. I think he was a corn snake. He was sitting in front of Chase, and I swear they’d had a conversation.
    The snake apparently had the same reaction to me. He seemed to be concerned and very alert, but to my amazement, he didn’t move. I told him to “stay”, a natural thing for me to say since I often tell the dogs to stay. I went back out to the garage and got a shovel and a bucket. When I returned, the snake was still there (apparently an obedience prospect!) and even when I approached him, he stayed put. I gently scooped him into the bucket, took him outside, and released him in the long grass far from the house.
    I could see that Chase was relieved. A few years ago, I found a baby snake in the basement and recognized it as the miniature version of a snake that can grow to be about five feet long. By the end of the summer I found 16 of the little guys in the basement and one in the living room (yes, a determined little snake can climb stairs!). We were doing construction on the front porch that year. Apparently the mama snake had been disturbed when about to lay her eggs and had left them in a place that allowed the hatchlings to drop into the basement. 
    I couldn’t catch these little snakes easily and I was afraid of them. Creatures that I can handle just fine in the wild can really bother me when I find them in my house. I’m not proud to say this now, but I ended up chasing the little guys down and beating them with a broom. I’ve noticed that fear of something different can make people react in extreme ways.
    One day, after beating a little snake to death, I noticed Chase cowering in the corner. He was rescued from an abusive situation and must have been at the wrong end of the broom a few times himself. Seeing me wield the broom that way and knowing that I could suddenly turn into a crazy person had traumatized him. He made me realize that it was silly for a grown woman to beat a little snake to death with a broom. My adrenaline and my fear of finding these little snakes everywhere made me overreact.
    So this year, when I found the baby snake, I’m pretty sure that Chase had been coaching the little guy. I can feel Chase saying, “Just hold still and she won’t run you down. If she can catch you, she can set you free.” Seeing Chase right there in front of the snake made me realize that I didn’t want to traumatize him. And since the snake stayed still and was so easy to catch, I was able to gently put him in the bucket and set him free in the grass. I guess Chase was coaching me too! If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from your dog.
    Those who are familiar with spirit animals know that a snake appearing as a totem signifies that a transition or spiritual awakening will take place. Snake energy is said to be the energy of wholeness and the ability to experience anything willingly and without resistance. It is the knowledge that all things are equal in creation. It also signals a transition in your life, with new opportunities and/or changes. That is certainly true for me, with many transitions taking place this fall. I also think that perhaps Chase and the little snake created a spiritual awakening in me, or at least an awareness that I don’t have to react violently to a creature that frightens me. I don’t even have to be frightened. I’m working on living peacefully with snakes, and all creatures that make me even a little bit uncomfortable.
    With the change in season and winter just around the corner, give your dogs the nutrition they need with Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™.
    Totem information excerpted from:

  • Parasites: Anthelmintic Resistance

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we discussed management strategies that will aid in lowering the amount of internal parasites to which your horse is exposed. However, even with the best management practices available, it still may be necessary to employ chemical means to eliminate parasites. However, the use of anthelmintics (drug class which eliminates parasites) should not be done indiscriminately. A growing concern within the equine industry is the international development of anthelmintic resistance among the common parasites which infest horses. With no new drugs on the near horizon, we should take a hard look at their responsible use and our current management practices.
    First of all, we should discuss how much of an issue parasite resistance might be, and what owners might have inadvertently done to help create it. It has been known for some time that ascarids and small strongyles have developed resistance to some drug classes, including benzimadazoles and the tetrahydropyrimidines or pyrantel salts, which include pyrantel pamoates and pyrantel tartrate. The other major drug classes of dewormers are the macrocyclic lactones or avermectins/milbemycins. Many horse owners would know these more commonly as the ivermectins or moxidectrin. These dewormers have been extremely popular to use because of the broader spectrum of parasites which they eliminate. Compared to benzimadozoles and tetrahydropyrimidines which kill large and small strongyles, ascarids and pinworms, the macrocyclic lactones also eliminate bots and stomach worms and moxidectrin eliminates several of the larval stages of small strongyles. Because of their broader range of efficacy, this has led many individuals to rely almost exclusively on these drugs in their management plan. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that resistance issues to these drugs have begun to develop.
    Ascarid resistance to ivermectin has been demonstrated in the Netherlands, Italy, Canada and Denmark. Furthermore, even within strongyles, the egg reappearance period, or the time between when no eggs are detected in the feces following deworming, to when they are seen again, has shortened from 9-10 weeks down to 5-6 weeks.  In Brazil, an increasing number of colic deaths in horses have been attributed to a growing resistance in the strongyles population.   In a recent issue of Veterinary Parisitology looking at anthelmintic resistance of horses in Finland, treatment of infected horses with ivermectin only resulted in a 52% decrease in the number of eggs found in the feces and 63% of horses had resistant parasites. Ivermectins were more effective against strongyles, but 44% of treated horses had parasites with demonstrated resistance. Comparatively, pyrantel treatment of horses infested with strongyles resulted in only a 43% reduction in fecal egg counts with 79% of horses showing resistance issues. To clarify, it is the parasite within the horse which harbors resistance, not the horse itself.
    So why is resistance a growing issue? As discussed already, many individuals have relied exclusively on one type of dewormer. Eventually, as is typical in nature, organisms adapt to their environment to be more successful and to pass on their genetic code to future generations.    Essentially, once the worms adapt, or a few individuals survive a purge deworming, they are able to pass on these enhanced genetics to a future generation of worms which will also have that advantage of being immune to that drug.   If they are never exposed to a different type of dewormer, essentially the horse owner is just developing a breeding program for resistant worms! One strategy to adopt when thinking about “breeding” worms is to increase the number of refugia, or the population of worms which have not been exposed to dewormers. These would be the worms that would be in horses that were untreated, the encysted larval stages or perhaps those in the pasture. These non-exposed worms actually help to dilute out the population of resistant worms, and allow them to breed and pass on their more inferior genetics. To this end, many veterinarians now recommend that a fecal exam be performed on a horse prior to choosing to deworm. In this manner, horses which may not have worms present, are not unnecessarily dewormed. Also, a strategic deworming plan can be implemented, targeting only those horses with a significant worm burden. For example, a target concentration of 200 eggs per gram can be used.    Only horses which test to have a higher fecal egg count would be dewormed, while those horses with a relatively low burden would be left untreated, and thus increase the refugia.  This lowers our usage of anthelmintics and targets their use only at individuals which need it.
    As horse owners, we may also be inadvertently contributing to resistance issues by using poor practices when we do choose to deworm our horses. Every time we under dose our horses with purge dewormers, we are creating greater tolerance in the worms. Many times owners actually under-estimate the true weight of their horse when deworming, or have a horse which spits out part of the oral dose. One easy tip for owners is to make sure there is no feed present in the oral cavity of the horse when deworming, the presence of which makes it easier to spit out the dewormer.
    So what should a horse owner do? Certainly selecting only those horses which are known to be high shedders (or have a significant number of eggs present in their feces) would be ideal. However, there is very little incentive for the average horse owner to purse this type of program.   It is typically cheaper to just deworm the horse, rather than testing it first, and then follow up with deworming. More or less it becomes a personal choice of which practice to follow. If owners are unwilling to perform fecal exams, then it is imperative that they do rotate within classes of dewormers. Slow rotation strategies, which entail using a particular class of dewormer for one year, followed by a different class the following year, is an effective strategy.  Using a fast rotation program, or continually rotating between classes for every treatment is an alternative rotational strategy.   No definitive studies have been performed as of yet to suggest which strategy may be best for avoiding resistance issues. Additionally, the use of a macrocyclic lactone at least twice yearly is recommended, as these are the types of dewormers which can eliminate stomach bots. These are typically given after the first hard frost of the year, and prior to the spring thaw in the spring.
    Ultimately, it is in our best interest as horse owners to employ strategic decisions about deworming our horses. A combination of management strategies and informed intelligent decisions about which horses to deworm and what products should be used. Ideally, a sound plan can be developed with your veterinarian or equine professional that serves the needs of your own horse, and the greater equine community as well.

  • Things I’ve Always Wanted to Know about Horses’ Hooves but Didn’t Know How to Ask

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    If that fits you, then you’re in good company. Everyone with a horse or two has either been there or is there with you, right now – or soon will be. And it’s a conundrum. A hoof looks so simple; except for color, they all look very much alike. It’s so easy to take them for granted. But there are some questions:
    How come some people have the guy come over every month or so and change the shoes? And how about hooves that don’t have shoes on, what’s up with that? Sometimes, instead of a shoe guy visiting regularly, there’s a guy with nippers and a rasp that comes around and delivers four pedicures on every horse. Both the shoe guy and the rasp guy look like they’re doing really intense work, hard work, and those hooves look really great when they’re done – but is all that attention really necessary? It isn’t cheap, either, getting those hooves worked on. Wild horses don’t get either guy to come around, and they survive all right. Shouldn’t a backyard horse need even less attention than a wild one – who, ironically, gets no attention at all? And even with all the guys’ visits, some hooves always seem to be in trouble, feet hurting for one reason or another. Why is that?
    Now, that’s a lot to think about. Maybe I can shed a little light in the darkness surrounding this puzzling subject. We will at least get a little more familiar with hooves, I hope. Let’s start with a quick look at what makes up a hoof:
    Meet Mr. Hoof
    The hard covering you see wrapped around the hoof is called the hoof “wall”. It has two jobs: its outer layer – the part you see -- is armor plating, so to speak, protecting the foot from outside trauma. It also has an inner layer, whose job is to provide shock absorption, stability, and some weight support for the horse.
    Referring to the bottom view sketch, you see some interesting items. The flat area in the front half of the foot and extending into the sides is the “sole”, and much like the sole of your shoe, it provides protection and support.
    The arrowhead-shaped area is known as the “frog”. It’s soft but firm, and provides some weight support, but it is also a shock absorber as well as a stimulator for certain tissues internal to the back of the foot, known as the digital cushion and lateral cartilages.
    You also see the “heels”, flanking the back end of the frog. Note that they make a sharp “turn” as they head back toward the toe, forming what are called the “bars”, before disappearing into the bottom of the foot. That sharp turn in the wall, one of nature’s strongest constructs, forms the primary weight support for the horse. Take a sheet of paper from a small notebook, stand it on its edge, then press down on the upper edge. It bends immediately, has no supporting strength. Now fold that sheet of paper in half, stand it on its end and repeat the process; that weak sheet of paper now gives surprising resistance to your pressure. The hoof’s heels work the same way, but can support enormous pressure – more than the weight of the entire horse. And if you were to watch the heels closely from behind when the horse is walking across a rocky area, you’d see the two heels of each hoof moving up and down on the uneven rocks with each step, independent of each other; this keeps the hoof “even” as the horse walks. You could consider the horse’s hoof as the world’s first fully independent suspension system, rather like that in your automobile, with the frog acting as a shock absorber and the heels as the springs.
    Referring to the side view sketch, the triangular-shaped bone you see is called the “coffin bone”. It is actually an inverted cone, and is attached across its front surface to the inside of the wall by a Velcro-like substance forming what is called “the laminae”, or “laminar connection”.
    The two bones above the coffin bone are known simply as P1 and P2 (the coffin bone is also referred to as P3). Together, these form what is called the pastern, terminating at the upper end into what is known as the fetlock joint.
    Tucked neatly into the back of the joint between P3 and P2 is a small, rod-shaped bone, whose end view you see in the sketch; it is known as the “navicular bone”.
    And finally, the side view sketch shows a wad of fibrous tissue called the “digital cushion”. Note that it sits just above the frog: when the hoof is healthy, it is stimulated by the frog with every step the horse takes. A large and healthy digital cushion is vital for good foot health throughout the horse’s life.
    A bit of interesting trivia: the hoof on a foreleg of a horse is the equine equivalent of the end of your middle finger. In fact, the horse’s entire foreleg matches up with your arm, bone for bone, except he has but one “finger” -- the fetlock joint to the hoof -- while you have five. Evolutionary deviation.
    The hoof at work
    Compare a hoof to your own foot. The hoof is actually a very small appendage, considering the bulk and weight of the horse that it supports. But the horse is a prey animal, it relies upon its sharp senses and speed to get out of harm’s way, thus its legs are comparatively skinny, allowing the horse the broadest field of view while it’s head is down and grazing. And when he runs, given a couple hundred feet head start, he can outrun any other animal on the planet. Being small, those hooves are also relatively lightweight and don’t drag him down when in flight.
    Since the species lives on almost every kind of surface imaginable, the feet need to be hard, strong, and virtually bullet-proof – and they are.
    Their feet need to wear well, too – considering that western-American ferals move an average of 20 miles per day, they need all that toughness, and they grow constantly and consistently to compensate for all that wear. Why don’t feral horses require trimming? It’s because the rate of hoof wear just about equals the rate of hoof growth. How convenient! When there’s more growth than there is wear, Mother Nature steps in and trims the horse by chipping away where the wall meets the ground. The result isn’t pretty, but it surely is functional, and it all grows back.
    Ferals may get their 20-miles-per-day, but certainly, domestics do not -- yet their hooves grow. Enter the trim guy. Horses living the barefoot life generally need attention every four to six weeks, because without sufficient movement every day, growth is greater than wear. The trimmer’s job is basically to remove the excess growth and restore the hoof to its ready-to-use condition.
    Some horses are shod – but shod hooves also continue to grow. That means the shoeing farrier needs to remove the worn shoe, trim the excess growth from the hoof, then replace the worn shoe with a new one.
    Shod or not, allowing a hoof to overgrow results in much more than just the loss of a nice appearance. Good foot health is likewise sacrificed – a subject to be covered in detail at another time. One common condition is the development of hoof chipping and splits. These are usually superficial conditions, correctible by proper trimming. With proper care, under normal circumstances both conditions will grow out. Remember, the wall has two layers. The outer layer is by far the most affected by chips and cracks, the inner layer not so much. That’s a good thing – it maintains the integrity of the hoof’s ability to protect, while any damage grows out with the growth of new wall.
    What makes horses limp?
    Quite a laundry list, here. Lameness can originate anywhere in the horse’s locomotive system, but most commonly in the feet themselves. We’ll talk about several of the causes.
    Laminitis, one of the more common conditions, is also one of the more frightening – as well it should be. Laminitis is one of the most painful of hoof conditions, and the pain is long-lasting, even when properly treated. The Velcro-like structure that holds the wall to the coffin bone, mentioned earlier, is the laminar connection, which, like Velcro, consists of two layers that cling together tightly. But the laminae are living tissue, complete with millions of tiny blood vessels that carry nutrients to the cells that make them up. When blood flow to those cells is interrupted, the cells die, and when it happens to enough of them, the integrity of the connection between coffin bone and hoof wall is broken. That results in the very painful condition known as laminitis, with an additional danger – that of complete failure* of the laminar connection, allowing the wall to rotate away from the coffin bone, and forcing the hoof’s sole, already bearing much of the horse’s weight, to take up the added support load normally provided by the laminar connection.
    Laminitis and founder are two conditions that require immediate attention by a professional. Both are treatable if caught in time, but the horse’s pain needs independent and immediate attention. Common practice is to dose the horse with an NSAID such as Bute or firocoxib, and to apply a special trim to take pressure off of the damaged laminar connection.
    Abscesses can develop almost anywhere in the horse, but are most common in the hooves. An abscess is comparable to a “boil” in you and me – very painful to touch. Abscesses usually develop in hooves following a laminitis attack or founder. The dead laminar cells need to be disposed of by the body’s lymphatic system, but the infection is often so massive that the body can’t “keep up” with it well enough, and so it forms a pocket of infection. That pocket of pus and blood will eventually find a way out of the horse through a combination of normal waste collection process, and “popping” – that is, forcing its way out of the hoof, usually at the top of the wall (coronary band) or in the heel bulbs or through the sole. It is not unusual for a series of abscesses to develop after laminitis hits, as the dead laminae are cleared out. Abscesses can be dangerous if left untouched or handled improperly, and so a vet should be brought in early on to deal with them.
    Bruising is caused by outside trauma. A hoof kicking forward onto a hard, sharp object may cause no visible damage, but may cause internal damage you can’t see. You’ll know it by the limp, which usually disappears after a day or two. You’ll eventually see the evidence -- some old dried blood in the bottom edge of the wall when it’s trimmed. More common is bruising on the sole, caused by the horse coming down hard on a sharp stone, for example. Soles are tough, but not nearly so tough as the wall, and so you will sometimes see evidence of that trauma when you pick up the hoof. Such a condition may require some treatment to prevent infection.
    Navicular is a sort-of catch-all term that describes pain in the back of the foot. It’s named after that little bone, mentioned near the end of the Meet Mr. Hoof section, above. The name, “navicular”, gets the distinction of representing a variety of back-of-hoof problems because several are connected with the navicular bone itself. However, true navicular bone problems also involve some soft tissue, such as the deep digital flexor tendon and the sheath protecting it. Pain originating at the navicular bone is referred to as Navicular Syndrome – it happens when the sheath wears through and the tendon rubs directly on the navicular bone –that rubbing happens with every step the horse takes. Fortunately, it is a curable condition.
    Underdeveloped tissues, the digital cushion and lateral cartilagesin the back of the hoof need to be included here, because although their pain is comparatively unspectacular, it is real, and it’s probably the most common source of chronic pain for domestic horses. That’s because a domestic’s digital cushion and lateral cartilages are rarely fully developed to properly support an active, full-grown horse, leaving the hoof weak and accident/injury prone. The key to a horse’s foot health is movement, movement, movement, starting at foalhood, to deliver stimulation to those soft tissues. Movement is great preventive medicine, and development of those soft tissues requires it constantly. Domestics rarely get sufficient movement for proper soft tissue development. So, ride that horse! Often!
    Thrush and White Line disease
    These are actually microbial infections, but they are so common that they deserve special mention here. Thrush is actually a condition caused by a successful invasion by a number of microorganisms, especially Candida albicans; essentially, it is a yeast infection. It commonly strikes the frog, and if unchecked eventually destroys that appendage. A healthy frog is well-formed, smooth, soft but firm, and makes initial ground contact when the horse walks. An infected frog can appear to be coming apart before your eyes; it is often soft and “mushy”, receding into the back of the foot, and when probed with a hoof pick, comes apart easily. It can exude a black, smelly substance. Left unchecked, thrush can infect so deeply into the foot that it can cause serious lameness and health risk. There are a great many products on the market aimed at combating the thrush condition, many of which are effective on some horses, but not on others. The most successful treatments include soaking in Oxine (chlorine dioxide), and spraying with colloidal silver.
    White Line Disease is the term often assigned to a festering sore at the edge of the sole. However, true White Line Disease is a more serious condition that exists within the hoof itself. It is caused by an anaerobic fungus that grows within the laminar connection, where there is moisture, warmth and no air. The result of such an infection is the death of laminar cells, leaving hollow spaces between the layers, allowing new fungal growth to develop. Unfortunately, the degeneration that takes place within the hoof wall is usually not visible until substantial damage has been done, making this infection a silent threat to the well being of the animal.
    Seems like the hooves are the gathering-place for all sorts of painful events. It figures, though, since the horse’s feet are constantly at risk just by being used. Of all the common hoof problems, probably laminitis and abscessing are the most worrisome because while the horse feels the pain, you see evidence of it by the way he moves. At least you get the message of the pain early on, and can take steps to help him immediately.
    Why do we shoe hooves? How about barefoot?
    The nailed iron horseshoe seems to have first appeared in Europe about 5th century A.D. It was quickly learned that in the conditions of the time, animals exposed to domestic work that caused breakage or heavy hoof wear needed protection beyond their natural capabilities. Thus, born of necessity, the nailed-on horseshoe evolved from the early efforts at protection.
    As a result, it became commonplace to shoe domestic horses, a tradition carried on through modern times. However, today the horse is primarily kept as a pleasure animal, used for everything from competitive events, through demonstrations of equine grace and prowess at shows, pleasure riding, and yes, still even farming in some communities.
    Advocates of shoeing horses point out that domestic’s hooves continue to require shoeing much of the time lest they suffer damage. There is, however, a large and growing movement toward reversion to the barefoot condition. Its advocates believe that virtually any healthy horse can perform a horsey task barefoot just as well as and usually better than its shod counterpart. They cite the natural condition as being much better for the horse, and present convincing arguments and examples to support their position.
    Perhaps the jury is still out. Meantime, shod or barefoot, compassion for the horse demands that we provide him with the best possible hoof care.

  • The Fall Molt

    Written By Don Schrider

    Early fall is the time our chickens change their feathers. As winter approaches, this provides birds with a brand new set to give them the best possible protection from cold, wind, and precipitation (snow, rain, and ice). It is a great advantage for our birds to change their natural “clothing” each year just when they need the most protection.
    This annual change of feathers is called a “molt”, and the fact that it coincides with the reduced daylight of fall and winter is no accident. In poultry, light stimulates the pituitary gland, causing hormone production. This in turn causes tissues to elongate and soften, including the ovaries, and results in egg production. As day length shortens, hormone production slows and egg production ceases.
    We also have feather moisture at play. When feathers are first growing, the body is able to supply the feather follicles with nutrients – the follicles are soft , moist, and sensitive. As the feathers complete their growth, nutrients are directed toward other bodily activities – such as egg production. During egg production, much of the nutrition consumed is directed into the eggs. After months at peak production, little to no nutrition is available to the feathers, so they begin to dry out. This drying out is enhanced as the body seeks to find enough calcium to form eggs. The result is not only dry feathers, but brittle feathers that begin to wear and even break. As day length lessens, molt begins and the birds have new feathers just in time for cold weather.
    In order to grow a good set of feathers, and for those feathers to last as long as possible, our poultry need good nutrition. This starts with a balanced diet having a good level of protein and vitamins. A good supplement can help ensure that adequate levels of oils and nutrients are available when poultry need them the most. Omega Ultra Egg™ offers a host of benefits as a supplement for molting poultry. The natural oils help produce wider, stronger, more weather resistant feathers. It also helps extend the useful life of feathers, these same oils making the feathers less brittle. The calcium and vitamins Omega Ultra Egg™ contains help provide increased levels of those needed nutrients.
    So why are oils important? Natural oils help repel water – keeping the body of a chicken warm and dry on damp days. Oils also help maintain flexibility and prevent the feathers from losing moisture as their structures endure use over prolonged periods. Essentially, the internal moisture content of feathers ensures that the feather barbules, the small, hook-like structures that web together to form feathers, are flexible from the inside so that they do not break open. When feather moisture is lost, either from the surface becoming brittle or from the internal feather structure becoming brittle and breaking, the feathers begin to wear more quickly and lose their insulating and protective properties. Brilliant feather sheen is the result of good oils in the diet and of good feather moisture levels.
    Calcium and protein also both play a role in feather makeup and quality. Protein is the main building block the body uses to grow and to produce feathers. Some producers find higher quality feathers produced from low protein feeds – causing slower feather growth and thus longer periods for the hens being out of production. My own experience, and that of those I have mentored, has been that better feather quality, and less time out of production, come when feeding higher protein feed (usually 18-22% protein feeds). Feathers contain calcium carbonate, and thus calcium is needed to grow and maintain good feathers. When hens are laying and there is too little or just enough calcium in their diets, feathers become brittle and hens may even peck at each other’s feathers a bit to gain this much needed nutrient. After all, there are no eggs if there is no shell; and we all know egg shells are made of calcium.
    Extra nutrition is needed anytime birds undergo stress. Molt and peak production are just two examples of stress. Bad weather or harassment by dogs or small children are two others. The best plan is to have this supplemental nutrition incorporated as a regular part of the poultry diet. In this way, there is no deficiency to overcome or to aggravate a weakened condition.
    I use Omega Ultra Egg™ as a supplement all year round. Not only do my birds have healthy feathers, it ensures that my birds have supplemental nutrition from which to pull during times of stress. The fact that the oils in Omega Ultra Egg naturally have the correct balance between Omega 3 and Omega 9 fatty acids, and that the eggs the hens are healthier for me is just icing on the cake.
    So as you care for your birds during their time of molt, be sure that they receive everything they need to produce strong, healthy feathers that will last them through the winter until molting season next year. You will have happier hens and more eggs for your efforts.
    Text copyright © Don Schrider, 2012. All rights reserved.
    Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. He is the author of the revised edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, which is due for publication this fall and will be available at bookstores by January, 2013.

  • Meant to Be

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Lately I’ve been bombarded with stories of dogs in need, dogs who* need to be rescued before they run out of time. Finding safe places for all of them to go can be a challenge. Here’s one story with a happy ending, a story of how a woman and a dog who were meant to be together were united by a series of circumstances. Sometimes these things work out for the best.
    Maximus was tall, dark and handsome — charming with a calm demeanor. But his life hadn’t been easy. He’d had at least three different homes across half of the country and at least two names. He’d roamed the streets and had been picked up. He wasn’t young any more, was settled down, but not quite a senior yet either. He needed a safe place to land, a forever home. He was a gentle spirit, a kind soul, who deserved better than life had offered so far.
    Jeanne was lonely, missing her 100 pound shepherd mix who had died after developing debilitating joint problems. After her husband had passed on a few years ago, the dog had been her true companion. He’d been big, solid, and true, a dog she could lean on and count on.
    Something happened to bring Maximus to Jeanne, and I’m still not quite sure what made the pieces come together. Perhaps divine intervention and a guardian angel were at work.
    Over Memorial weekend, I was in Wisconsin visiting family. My friend Vickie from high school was in town visiting her mom, and they invited me over. I took my dog Chase along. He had recently completed his training to become a Delta Pet Partner, and he loves people. Vickie’s mom Jeanne fell in love with Chase and told me how much she missed her old dog. Chase loved her too and sat by her for much of the evening, enjoying being petted and eying her ready stash of dog treats. Jeanne told me how much she wanted to find another large dog who would be a good companion, but she needed a dog who wasn’t high energy. She used to walk her old dog around the block, take him to the dog park, and hire the neighbor boys to take him for longer walks. In spite of our concern about Jeanne handling a large dog, she was confident that she could still do it. She wanted to keep Chase, but of course, I couldn’t let him go! Instead, I promised to look for a dog for Jeanne.
    Back in Minnesota, a local rescue that I had helped support was closing and they needed to find safe places for the dogs in their care. I had met some of the dogs and had seen others posted on the website. With Jeanne in mind, I looked at the website again, but didn’t find a dog that seemed to be a good match. Most were young, high energy dogs who would need more activity than Jeanne could provide and might just pull her off her feet. I commented to my friends who had volunteered at the rescue and they both said, “What about Maximus, the shepherd mix?” Then I learned his story.
    They told me how big and gentle Maximus is, and how concerned they were that he might not find a good home before the rescue had to close. There didn’t seem to be a single reason why Maximus had not found a good forever home. It always seemed to be a problem with his person not being able to keep him, but nothing that was his fault. Probably being large doesn’t help a dog sometimes.
    I inquired at the rescue, met Maximus, asked a lot of questions, and sent his information and pictures to Jeanne. She was very interested and wanted to know when she could meet him. So in mid-June we arranged to meet halfway, in a small town in west-central Wisconsin, under a statue of an orange moose. A friend who had helped care for Maximus at the rescue volunteered to ride along with me. She wanted to see Max land his new home that day! Max fit in the back seat of my truck, but I didn’t have a crate large enough to hold him. I didn’t know how he would ride in the car, so it was nice to have someone else ride along.
    Max settled in just fine and after driving through western Wisconsin, we arrived under the orange moose. Just after we pulled in, Jeanne drove up in her bright yellow car, like clockwork. We let Maximus take a potty break and stretch his legs. He walked over to Jeanne’s car and hopped right into the back seat like he’d been with Jeanne for his entire life. It was love at first sight for both. Jeanne had decided to adopt Max and was anxious to get going on the road back home, to get him settled into his new life. She had already told the whole neighborhood about Max, and people were awaiting their arrival!
    That morning when I had picked Maximus up from the rescue, I had told him where we were going and what we would be doing that day. I had told him all about Jeanne and how excited she was to meet him. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he jumped into her car like he’d been doing it for his entire life. He’d apparently understood what I’d told him and was just as excited to get on with the next chapter of their lives as Jeanne was. The rescue had already approved Jeanne to adopt and she had obviously already fallen in love with Max… so off they went!
    Jeanne reported in July that Maximus is now called “Sam”. He didn’t respond to “Maximus”, but responded enthusiastically when she called him “Sam”, so Sam it is! Their veterinarian decided that Sam is part German shepherd and part Great Dane. Now that I think about it, I do see Marmaduke in him! The road for Jeanne and Sam hasn’t been without its bumps. Sam wants to chase bunnies, and there are many wild bunnies in their neighborhood this summer. True to our concerns, Jeanne has fallen a couple of times. But she’s a committed dog mom, and is working to make their life together go smoothly. She consulted with a trainer to learn how to handle Sam better on walks, and hired the neighbor boys to take him for long walks every day. They love him too. Jeanne assured me that Sam has found his forever home. I visited in August to see that they’re doing well together. I wish that a wonderful person like Jeanne would appear for every dog.
    Now Jeanne and Sam seem to belong together, but how did this come to be? I happened to see Jeanne in May when I got together with her daughter. I didn’t find Sam on the rescue website and hadn’t known about him until two different people had both said, “What about Maximus”? Something led me to mention Jeanne to these people, and something led them to mention Sam to me.
    And here’s the rest of the story… When I was in high school, my family moved out to the country. I loved living in the country and being with my animals. But sometimes living far away meant that I missed extracurricular activities at school. My friend Vickie lived close to our high school. She was an only child and her family was very social. They hosted me overnight many times, allowing me to attend high school activities that I would have missed. Her family was much more social and politically active than mine. They had interesting parties, exposing me to new and different people and viewpoints, even introducing me to activists, which I have now also become! They opened up a whole new world for me.
    When I think about that time in my life, I realize now how generous Jeanne was to invite me into their home. As a teenager, I probably took too much for granted. I never really thanked her properly for her generosity and for all the doors she opened for me. I can’t think of a better way to thank her than by bringing Sam into her life. What better gift is there than a noble dog? Although I feel as though Sam was sent, and I was just one of the vehicles that brought him to Jeanne, I like to think that, after all these years, her kindness has been repaid. And we have reconnected, not surprisingly over a dog!
    I sent a pouch of Omega Canine Shine® and some Omega Nuggets™ home with Jeanne and Sam, for good nutrition to help Sam get off to a great start in his new home.
    *Note: I often use “who” when referring to a dog. Although the spell checker doesn’t like this and it may not be grammatically correct, I know that dogs are sentient beings and I do it anyway.

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